A conservative legal firm is demanding that a Texas school district reassess its dress code after a cop allegedly slammed an eighth grader to the ground and forcibly arrested him after he refused to remove his rosary — a religious symbol that has also come to be associated with gangs.
The Rutherford Institute fired off a letter to the Amarillo Independent School District on December 4, giving officials just over a week to respond to a series of demands.
The firm is asking that the district condemn the "excessive" police force used against 14-year-old Jacob Herrera in late October, urging police to drop criminal prosecution against him and to peel back its policy against clothing that police believe looks to be gang related, according to the Christian Post.
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Herrera clashed with a cop during a middle school football game on October 29, after the officer asked him to remove a rosary he was wearing in remembrance of his deceased brother. When he refused, at least one witness told media that a police officer slammed the teenager repeatedly on the ground.
"You know he handcuffed him and then crossed him across the street right there and slammed him again and he repeatedly slammed the child on the floor," Marivell Chavez told KFDA-TV, claiming that the teen yelled "I can't breathe" and "Call my mom" while being held down.
But the Amarillo Police Department claims that Herrera was resisting arrest, which led to an escalation with authorities. Corporal Jerry Neufeld told the outlet that the teen refused to put his arms behind his back and that he ignored a cop's prompts.
While some might find the officer's qualms over Herrera's rosary confounding, the police department explained that the symbol is sometimes used by gangs and that students are asked not to wear the religious symbol on school property or at school events, according to KFDA-TV.
The Amarillo Independent School District doesn't explicitly ban rosaries, but policies do require that pupils not wear clothing or apparel deemed gang-related by police. In a statement issued back in October, the district explained, from its perspective, what unfolded.
"A school administrator and liaison officer asked the student to either comply with the dress code rules or leave school property," the statement read, in part. "The student repeatedly refused to comply with either option. At that time, the student was arrested for trespassing."
Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead told the Christian Post Monday that he believes authorities used excessive force against Herrera and that the incident shouldn't have unfolded.
"I understand that this [could be seen as] a gang symbol, but you can't repress the symbol. It is a matter of religious freedom and is a First Amendment right," Whitehead said. "I think that they are overreacting to the gang issues, and if you have somebody wearing it legitimately, yes, they should be allowed to wear it. I think it is an important issue or we wouldn't be involved."
The district is said to be reviewing its policy after receiving the Rutherford Institute's policy.
As TheBlaze has previously reported, this isn't the first time rosaries have come under fire for their use by gang members. What do you think? Should faithful students be allowed to wear them? Let us know below.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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